Oil City was founded in 1903 as a flag stop
along the Kansas City Southern Railroad. At that time
the town was known as Ananias, a name that it had
supposedly been given by some Shreveport men who owned a
hunting and fishing club on
at what is known as Kool Point.
Ananias, along with Surrey and Caddo City, were absorbed
into Oil City.
These were stops on the railroad line, which had come
through the area in 1895.
Early on, most settlers were fishermen, trappers, and
farmers. Others took part in the timber industry, and
another group harvested fresh water pearls in Caddo Lake
after they were discovered in mussels in 1909. A dam was
built in 1914, which caused the water levels to rise,
killing the mussels and the pearl industry.
1904 Savage Brothers and Morrical drilled the first oil
After the discovery of oil in 1905, the flag stop was
destined to become a boom town.
Three years later a man named Hughes convinced the
government to locate a post office in Oil City. He is
also given credit for changing the name to Oil City.
1910 the oil business was on its feet, with Gulf Oil
drilling the first off-shore well in that year. Land
sales went from fifty-cents an acre to $500 an acre
within a year. 25,000 people populated the city, and all
the land had been leased.
The men in the oil field camps generally worked
twelve-hour shifts each day, seven days a week. They
slept in tents at the camps. Usually their families did
not accompany them.
The community supplied the well workers with meals and
housing. Passenger trains, operated by Kansas City
Southern Railroad, ran between the oil fields and
Oil City had wooden sidewalks and muddy streets with
hitching posts for horses.
Even the hotel in town was a tent for a while. There was
a modest store that also was a billiard parlor, a post
office, okok and sometimes an auditorium. The passenger
and freight stations, along with the Kansas City
Southern Railway telegraph office were housed in freight
The town became the first “wild cat town” in the
Ark-La-Tex, as tough characters and a shack-covered red
light district known as Reno Hill gave the town a
the center of town was a lone tree, which law
enforcement officials used to tie up drunks while they
A restaurant, gambling houses, saloons, and the Stag
Hotel stood across the railroad tracks on the east side,
and a two-story house in Reno Hill served as a dance
The sheriff of Oil City closed Reno Hill in 1917.
Oil City was described as being so wild that
the crew on the passenger trains was advised to pull the
window shades on the train cars to keep the women and
children from seeing the fights and murders that
occurred on the streets.
Warehouses, stores, hotels, and a movie theater
eventually moved into the town.
Fire destroyed twelve buildings in 1917, and fires in
the 1920’s and in 1938 destroyed the subsequent
Caddo-Pine Island Oil and Historical Society Museum
The Trees City Office and Bank Building, built in 1910
as the headquarters and bank building of the J. C. Trees
Oil Company, was moved in 1983 to its present location
at 200 S. Land Avenue in Oil City. The three-room wooden
building is one of the few remaining in the state that
has an association with the oil industry. The structure
is now maintained by the Caddo-Pine Island Oil Museum,
which was formed in 1969.
Behind the Caddo-Pine Island Oil and Historical Society
Museum is an oil derrick donated by Texaco.
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